Schizophrenia Understanding the Psychological Disorder Mariah J. Ordaz Coastal Bend College Schizophrenia: Understanding the Psychological Disorder Schizophrenia, it’s a term many people associate with crazy, psychotic, and bizarre behaviors. This disorder has many signs and symptoms and the cause has yet to be discovered. Various studies have been conducted, but one singular cause of the disorder has not been discovered. Understanding this serious and baffling psychological disorder is an important and informative key for understanding the human psyche.
Schizophrenia is a psychological disorder that involves severely distorted beliefs, perceptions, and thought processes (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 563). People who have schizophrenia are not capable of telling the difference between what is real and what is not. They become engulfed in an entirely different inner world, one that is often characterized by mental chaos, disorientation, and frustration (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 563). The symptoms of schizophrenia can be characterized into two different categories: positive and negative symptoms.
Positive symptoms reflect an excess or distortion of normal functioning (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 563). Positive symptoms add to the person’s everyday life by way of hallucinations, delusions, and severely disorganized thought processes, speech, and behavior. Delusions are a false belief that continues despite overwhelming contradictory evidence. Schizophrenic delusions are often far-fetched and nonsensical notions, not simply inaccurate beliefs. The person may believe that aliens are attempting to abduct them. This delusion would fall under the delusions of being controlled category.
There are also delusions of persecution and delusions of reference. Some people have delusions of grandeur in which they believe they are extremely important, powerful, or wealthy. Identifying with biblical characters is a common delusion of grandeur. A person suffering from these delusions actually believes they are Jesus, the Messiah, or some other character of extreme importance. Delusional thinking may lead to dangerous behaviors, as when a person responds to his delusional ideas by hurting himself or hurting others (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 64). The most alarming positive symptom of Schizophrenia is hallucinations. Hallucinations are false or distorted perceptions, like voice or visual stimuli, which seem vividly real (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 564). PET scans were taken of the brain during schizophrenic hallucinations. The scans showed that there was little to no activity in the frontal lobe. If the frontal lobe is not working properly the brain is incapable of organizing thought processes, thus making the hallucination even more real to the person experiencing the episode.
Content of the person’s delusions and hallucinations is often influenced by cultural factors. When a schizophrenic episode is severe, hallucinations can be virtually impossible to distinguish from objective reality (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 565). Other positive symptoms of schizophrenia are disturbances in sensation, thinking and speech. Also, severely disorganized thinking plays a major role. It becomes enormously difficult to concentrate, remember, and integrate important information while ignoring irrelevant information (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 565).
Negative symptoms consist of marked deficits or decreases in behavioral or emotional functioning (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 565). In other words, the person responds to all situations in the same flat, monotonous way regardless of the situation, thus taking away from the person’s everyday life. Alogia, a closely related negative symptom is greatly reduced production or speech, or brief empty comments. Avolition refers to the inability to initiate or persist in even simple forms of goal-directed behaviors, such as dressing, bathing, or engaging in social behaviors (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 65). The person will appear completely unmotivated and sit still for hours at a time. Delusions are the most common positive symptom, and avolition, is the most common negative symptom (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 566). Positive and negative symptoms are used when diagnosing the particular subtype of schizophrenia. The paranoid type of schizophrenia is characterized by the presence of delusions, hallucinations, or both. People with paranoid schizophrenia show virtually no cognitive impairment, disorganized behavior, or negative symptoms (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 66). People suffering from paranoid schizophrenia have extreme and highly organized delusions and hallucinations of grandeur. Often hearing voices or maintaining a firm belief that they are a superior being. The paranoid type is the most common form of schizophrenia. Catatonic schizophrenia is marked by highly disturbed movements or actions. These may include bizarre postures or grimaces, extremely agitated behavior, complete immobility, the echoing of words just spoken by another person, or imitation of the movements of others (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 66). Catatonic schizophrenics will often resist direction given by others, resume rigid postures so they cannot be moved, and exhibit wavy flexibility. Wavy flexibility is an unusual symptom. Like a wax figure, the person can be “molded” into any position and will hold that position indefinitely (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 566). This form of schizophrenia is very rare. Disorganized schizophrenics exhibit extremely disorganized behavior, disorganized speech, and flat affect.
If delusions and hallucinations are present they are often disorganized, fragmented, shifting themes. The person’s behavior will seem very peculiar, laughing and giggling for no apparent reason (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 566). People are diagnosed with undifferentiated schizophrenia when their individual symptoms do not fit paranoid, catatonic, or disorganized types. Studies have found many factors that can increase or decrease a person’s chances of developing schizophrenia.
There is enormous individual variability in the onset, symptoms, duration, and recovery for schizophrenia (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 567). Genetics play a role in several cases of the disorder. The more closely related a person is to someone who has schizophrenia, the greater the risk that he or she will be diagnosed with schizophrenia at some point in their lifetime (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 567). If you are the child of both parents that have the disorder the likelihood of developing the disorder is forty-six percent.
The risk rate for a person whose identical twin has schizophrenia is forty-eight percent (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 567). Risk rate decreases as relation to the person with schizophrenia becomes more distant. There is also the perplexing fact that schizophrenia often occurs in individuals with no family history of mental disorders. As yet, no specific pattern of genetic variation can be identified as the genetic “cause” of schizophrenia (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 567). Paternal age is also thought to play a role. New cases of chizophrenia arise from genetic mutations carried in the sperm of the biological fathers, especially older fathers. As paternal age increases, the risk of developing the disorder increases. Men in the forty-five to forty-nine age range who fathered children were twice more likely to have offspring with schizophrenia than fathers age twenty-five and under. Men in the fifty plus age range were three times more likely to produce offspring with schizophrenia and more than one quarter of schizophrenia cases could be attributed to the father’s age. Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 569). It is safe to say that paternal age definitely is a risk factor in developing schizophrenia, but cannot be labeled as the main cause due to the fact that there are several cases of schizophrenia that have no association with older paternal age. The viral infection theory states that schizophrenia might be cause by exposure to an influenza virus or other viral infection during prenatal development or shortly after birth.
Exposure to a viral infection during prenatal development or early infancy affects the developing brain, producing changes that make the individual more susceptible to schizophrenia later in life (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 569). Studies have shown that women who had been exposed to the flu virus during the first trimester had a sevenfold increased of bearing a child who later developed schizophrenia (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 569). Researchers have found that about half of the people with schizophrenia show some type of brain structure abnormality (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 69). These abnormalities vary from loss of gray matter, enlargement of the ventricles, and lower overall volume of the brain. However, some people with schizophrenia do not show brain structure abnormalities. Rather than specifically causing schizophrenia, it’s quite possible that brain abnormalities might contribute to psychological disorders in general (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 570). There is also the dopamine hypothesis, schizophrenia is related to excessive activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain and that unhealthy families increase the risk factor for developing schizophrenia.
A healthy psychological environment may counteract a person’s inherited vulnerability for schizophrenia. Conversely, a psychologically unhealthy family environment can act as a catalyst for the onset of schizophrenia (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011, p. 571). However, no single psychological factor seems to emerge consistently as causing schizophrenia. At the present schizophrenia is considered a life-long condition, which has no cure, but can be treated. Successful treatment of schizophrenia, therefore, depends upon a life-long regimen of both drug and psychosocial, support therapies.
While the medication helps control the psychosis associated with schizophrenia (e. g. , the delusions and hallucinations), it cannot help the person find a job, learn to be effective in social relationships, increase the individual’s coping skills, and help them learn to communicate and work well with other. (Grohol, 2011) Schizophrenia is a complex disorder with many aspects that still remain a mystery. There is no known way to prevent the disorder, but with treatment symptoms caused by schizophrenia can become manageable.